Dusting off the magic of timeless stories

Heather Killen
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Artists revisit fables and fairy tales

Once upon a time in the magical land of comic books, the Big Bad Wolf cleaned up his act and settled into a complicated family life with Snow White. For a time, he traded his days of terrorizing pigs, little girls and old ladies to become an upstanding citizen of Fabletown.

Meanwhile, in another world created by fantasy writer Seanan McGuire, Snow White is a government agent tasked with the job of protecting everyone against memetic incursion: an affliction that happens whenever fairy tale narratives become people’s reality and no one is able live happily ever after.

In that world, special agents guard the world by preventing the archetypical characters and fairy tale themes from taking over people’s lives.

In our realm Bear River artist Ken Flett has challenged artists to play around with their own visions of the timeless tales, submitting twists to "Fables and Fairy Tales," a group exhibition at the Oakdene Center.

“Fables and Fairy Tales” builds on a light and dark theme that was introduced last year with the “Love and Monsters” show, he says. So far works have been submitted from across Nova Scotia and as far west as British Columbia.

Printmaker Janel Warmington has created a woodcut of Richard Adams’ Black Rabbit of Inlé, of Watership Down; Cheryl Stone, a paper mache artist, has created a cat gargoyle.  Glass artist Tammy Lewis has created her own colourful version of the enchanted forest.

The idea this time is to break away from Cinderella clichés and rediscover deeper truths, he says.

“Fables and Fairy Tales makes it easy for the artists to reach back to their childhood and give a deeper, more universal emotion, to create a piece that is not only external but rich with memory and passion,” Flett said.

Joseph Campbell, an American writer, spent his lifetime researching folklore and found the heroes’ journeys often reflected the same universal themes.  Like Campbell’s mythic heroes, fairy tale characters are called to face their own trials in the dark forest, eventually finding peace.

While fables never guarantee a happy ending, they usually offer up treasures in the form of life lessons. In her books, Seanan McGuire dusts off the clichés about characters such as Snow White and Cinderella.

“Everyone thinks of them in terms of poisoned apples and glass coffins, and forgets that they represent girls who walked into dark forests and remade them into their own reflections.”

“Fables and Fairy Tales” group show features works in oil, acrylic, fabric, watercolour, pencil, wood, digital media and more. The subjects of the works being submitted are as varied as the artists’ mediums.  

Other artists submitting pieces in the exhibition include Wayne Boucher, Gary Fraser, Jen Worden, Stefanie Denze and Shannon Peck. The Fables and Fairy Tales group exhibition opens Feb. 14 from 6 until 8 p.m. and runs noon until 4 p.m. on Feb. 15 and 16.

This show runs in conjunction with an open studio tour held during Bear River Winter Carnival, Feb 14 through Feb 16. The tour showcases Oakdene’s resident artists including Flett, as well as Kelly Foxton, Mike Jacques, Kelli Janson, Bill O’Brien, Joan Stanley, Claire Thorbes, and Rebekah Wetmore.

Oakdene’s resident artists’ studios will be open Feb. 14 from 4 until 8 pm, Feb 15 from noon until 4 p.m. and Feb.16 from noon until 4 p.m. The Oakdene Community Center is located at 1913 Clementsvale Rd. Bear River.


Organizations: Oakdene Center

Geographic location: Bear River, Nova Scotia, British Columbia

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